1 Oct 2019

A sandscaping solution designed by Royal HaskoningDHV has successfully transformed the beaches in front of the Bacton gas terminal and adjacent villages. The scheme will protect the terminal, which supplies up to one third of the UK gas supply, and hundreds of homes and business at the nearby villages of Bacton and Walcott from flooding and erosion.

The first project of its kind in the United Kingdom, sandscaping was the result of a public private partnership with North Norfolk District Council and the Bacton Terminal Companies.

1.8 million cubic metres of sand, enough to fill Wembley Stadium, was deposited to boost the coast’s beaches.

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 Sandscaping project to protect Norfolk coastline from erosion and flooding successfully completed | Royal HaskoningDHV Sandscaping project to protect Norfolk coastline from erosion and flooding successfully completed | Royal HaskoningDHV

In front of the terminal the beach is now 7 meters higher and 100 meters wider (right photo).

Major storm surges

Jaap Flikweert, Flood and Coastal Management Advisor at Royal HaskoningDHV explains the sandy solution: “Sandscaping is inspired by the successful Dutch ‘Zandmotor’, or sand engine, concept. It involves nourishing the shore with a large quantity of sand, which is then spread around by natural processes to protect the coast from erosion in the event of major storm surges.”

Time to adapt to coastal erosion and climate change

“All that sand will give the communities and the terminal owners 15-20 years of protection – during which time the wind and the tides will gradually move the sand around and eat it away. This period will give the local communities and businesses more time to further adapt to coastal erosion and climate change and decide on their future. In addition, the sandscaping solution provides a great beach for recreation and tourism. The sand was placed in a way that could initiate natural dune growth and boost biodiversity,” adds Jaap.

Digital copy of the sand body

“Jaap Flikweert: “We got involved soon after the December 2013 storm caused erosion and flooding, and have since worked with clients and stakeholders to develop the right solution, including computer modelling, expert analysis, the environmental impact assessment, the scheme’s business case and engagement with contractors.

“To design the solution, we used extensive data on morphology, wind, erosion, tides and currents and local knowledge,” says Jaap. “And together with our Dutch partner SHORE we will monitor the sand body using drones and jet skis and integrate the data into a ‘digital twin’ of the sand engine to support the local authority and terminal companies in their future investment decisions,” he concludes.

Bold new approach

Cllr. Sarah Bütikofer, North Norfolk District Council’s Leader, said: “It’s incredibly exciting to see this project, and bold new approach to addressing the effects of climate change, come to fruition. Protecting local homes, communities, businesses and nationally important infrastructure from the full force of the North Sea, this innovative Scheme, and a prime example of engineering with nature, has been designed to address the real threat of coastal erosion and its devastating impact which here in North Norfolk we are all too familiar with.”

Collaboration makes it happen

Sinead Lynch, Shell UK Country Chair commented: ““The teams across this project have worked hand in glove to protect this critical national infrastructure. We wouldn’t have got here without exceptional levels of private and public partnership, collaboration, and technical innovation. The clear benefit for both the local community and national economy is evident, and we should both applaud and shine a light on this great work”.

The £19M project is a collaboration between North Norfolk and the Bacton Gas Terminal operators Perenco UK and Shell UK who funded two thirds of the project, and with multiple public funding partners, plus a contribution from the local community.
Over a period of 5 weeks, Van Oord’s trailing suction hopper dredger HAM 318 deposited the 1.8 million cubic metres of sand over a total length of 5.6 kilometres.

Sandscaping project to protect Norfolk coastline from erosion and flooding successfully completed | Royal HaskoningDHV

Royal HaskoningDHV’s Jaap Flikweert explains the sand engine concept at the completion event.

All photos by Chris Taylor.